Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Minsk Lindy Exchange

I changed dancing styles this year, focusing on Lindy hop instead of salsa. Years ago I thought I was reasonably competent at swing, when my first wife and I took lessons for a year or two at a studio called Joy of Movement. Then one day at the beginning of a new semester, just after receiving everybody’s tuition, Joy of Movement went bankrupt.

We apparently didn’t even know as much as we thought we knew in the first place. Looking to continue, we took a free introductory lesson at the local Arthur Murray Dance Studio. The instructor there found a huge array of flaws and shortcomings in our technique, and suggested frankly that we shouldn’t start with any group classes because we needed lots of individual attention in order to break bad habits. We could see his point, and we understood in general what he wanted us to improve, but we couldn’t afford his private classes even at the special rate for buying many hours in advance. We figured we were having plenty of fun anyway so we kept our money and continued to dance when the opportunity presented itself, forgetting more and more as the years went by.

I caught the fever again last fall, when I saw a YouTube video called I Charleston Minsk. It featured a lot of people I knew by face, apparently having a really good time. Since I love swing music anyway, I decided to take it up once again.

My very talented teachers struggle with me since I don’t always follow their directions, occasionally tear off onto something (I think) I already know, and still have some bad habits. I struggle the most with timing on triple steps. I tend to divide the steps evenly over two beats, as in cha-cha-cha. That’s not the way it works in Lindy. The first element of the triplet should get a full beat and the remaining two share the second beat. When I think too hard about it, I can no longer dance. My teacher wants me to spend more time dancing with a doorknob, but I haven’t found a doorknob that looks me in the eye so I get bored and quit too soon.

I got a big boost (and had a really good time) over the weekend at the Minsk Lindy Exchange. The program encompassed three parties and two days of dance classes, from Friday evening to Sunday evening. I met dancers from Lithuania, Poland and all parts of Russia and Belarus. As you might guess, people willing to travel long distances in order to dance tend to be good at it. Generally, in fact, very good. My classmates and I learned lots not just from our lessons but from watching and dancing with people with more experience.

While I wanted to dance with the experienced dancers, they didn’t necessarily want to dance with me. And whether or not they’d seen me already on the dance floor, they could tell my low status by my green armband. Anybody with a green armband would be happy to dance with me. Folks with blue armbands would usually say yes too. I don’t know what the other colors meant, but learned soon enough that most of them weren’t so happy about dancing with me.

Anyway, I had a blast. I learned lots, came to respect the fact that I have a heck of a lot yet to learn, met a lot of really nice people, bought a fabulous red-white-and-blue handmade bow tie, heard plenty of excellent live music, enjoyed the company of people I already knew, and even piqued Alla’s interest just a little bit. I’m sorry I’ll be out of the country in May because there’s a similar event in Vilnius and I would have gone if it didn’t involve flying to get there.

More pictures at

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